'School Choice' supporters rally in support of educational policy changes in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Supporters of “school choice” held a rally at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock on Monday. The event drew hundreds of private school kids and school administrators.

The term school choice describes an educational policy that allows parents to choose between public and private schools through vouchers or scholarships. The debate has been in Arkansas for more than a decade, but the state may be closer than its been to implementing laws related to school choice. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and several new lawmakers touted it has a core element to their policy goals.

Josh Spielmaker is the campus coordinator for Prism North America’s Fayetteville campus and he and dozens of kids from the private school made the trip to Little Rock to see Sanders speak at the rally. He said Prism has come down every year for nearly a decade.

“We would love to be able to see our funding follow our students where they’re attending,” Spielmaker said.

“School choice was one of the reasons we started,” Spielmaker said. “We’re big advocates.”

Supporters said they think parents should have the right to choose where their children go to school regardless of income or zip code.

“For the power to be in the hands of the voters and not just the legislators are really great things,” Spielmaker said.

Opponents have several issues with school choice. Joyce Elliott is a former state legislator and educator. She said private schools can choose who they want to accept, which could be problematic.

“If you’re willing to take out a few and leave the rest behind, you’re still leaving kids behind,” Elliott said.

Elliott said funding could be decreased for public schools that need it.

“I’m not against private schools,” Elliott said. “Maybe I want a longer private driveway, but I don’t expect to have the public money used to pay for my driveway.”

Those who attended the school choice rally Monday said they hope related legislation is passed this session.